Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Making Silent Stones Speak by Kathy D Schick and Nicholas Toth

Subtitled Human Evolution and the Dawn of Technology this is a fascinating exploration of human evolution from the early hominid species through to anatomically modern humans, focussing on stone tools.

The authors are experimental archaeologists, which means that as well as studying fossils and remains of early human and hominid settlements, they spend time making their own tools using stone age techniques. In this way they have a clearer understanding of how our ancestors live, what they ate and the ways they must have communicated with each other. 

It's a fascinating book, accessibly written and full of photographs and diagrams showing how stone tools developed. It is quite astonishing to think how slowly life changed for our early ancestors, based on the lack of change in their basic tools over thousands of years. The book also gives a lot of insight into our ancestor's relationship with the natural world around them.

It's interesting to think about the whole area of experimental archaeology, a great way to find clues into our distant past.

Making Silent Stones Speak by Kathy D Schick and Nicholas Toth, published by Weidenfeld and Nicholson

Monday, 30 March 2015


I was walking through Colinton Dell today, listening to all the wonderful bird song and admiring the large number of different species that were braving the rain. I was thinking that I hadn't seen too many celandines this year though. It was only when I got well past the dells and into the more urban part of the Water of Leith in Gorgie though that I saw this most impressive carpet of celandines.

I was also pleased that the Gorgie stretch of the river was today relatively free of litter, it's normally a real litter blackspot.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Redford Woods

We hadn't visited Redford / Dreghorn Woods for a while so we thought it was about time we went back today. It's a lovely area of woodland alongside the Braid Burn in Colinton, at the moment it's carpeted in wild garlic.

We saw lots of birds around the spot where I took the first photo above, including mistle thrushes, a buzzard and most interestingly a nuthatch! The nuthatch only moved into Scotland a few years ago and is currently turning up in more and more wooded areas of Edinburgh. This was a new place for us to see this lovely bird and Crafty Green Boyfriend was delighted to get these photos

You can see photos from our previous visit to Redford Woods here and here. Sadly some of the fields that surrounded the woods are now being covered in houses..

Friday, 27 March 2015

Natural Talent

Natural Talent is a training project operated by The Conservation Volunteers. It has achieved a huge amount over the past few years as was demonstrated at the Showcase event I attended this morning at Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. Since 2006 Natural Talent has trained 44 apprentices - 31 women and 13 men - of whom 33 are now employed in the conservation sector and 8 are studying or have completed PhDs. Apprentices have been involved in training and mentoring, outreach, sharing their knowledge with other professionals and engaging the general public, including school children.

The concept of the apprenticeship scheme has been to build up a future generation of people with expert knowledge in less well-studied areas of species and habitat identification and biology. We need to know about species if we are to conserve them. Apprenticeships have included:

8 studying lower plants or fungi
11 studying invertebrates
18 studying specialist habitats
2 studying soil biodiversity and
2 studying marine plankton

Apprentices have made substantial contributions to ecological science and conservation including:

* helping to classify the Island of Canna as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) for waxcap fungi
* helping to create a Local Nature Reserve on the site of a rare solitary bee
* investigating the effect of climate change on the distribution of a fungus associated specifically with Mountain Avens
* researching and planning citizen science projects
* finding new sites where rare species occur
* feeding into peatland conservation programmes

There was a lot of discussion around how to engage people in less well known species. Kirsty Barclay who was a zooplankton apprentice with Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) talked about how she had made a presentation at McDuff Marine Aquarium Shark Week, talking about zooplankton as sharks' favourite food. So all the shark fans out there suddenly became interested in something they may previously never have even known existed.

An important point that came up in one of the workshops was that for any conservation project to work politicians and decision makers need to be made aware of the value of nature. For example Edinburgh City Council Planning Department know about the nationally red and amber listed seed eating birds that live on the Cammo fields and they know that the Edinburgh City Local Biodiversity Action Plan commits to conserving these birds and their habitat, but still seems determined to build on these fields and destroy the birds' habitat. It's that mismatch that we really need to address, as in the end, no matter how many enthusiastic young ecologists are out there and no matter how much they engage local schools and communities, it is ultimately the decision makers who need to be convinced of the value of nature.

The scheme has extended this year across the UK and now offers traineeships rather than apprenticeships (though that seems to be as much a change in terminology as much as a change in the training itself).

In addition to learning about Natural Talent itself, the take home lessons of the day were:

* to find out as much as we can about any aspect of nature that interests us and pass that on to the people around us

* to take part in citizen science projects around recording nature (which in the UK include Birdtrack and i-Spot (which helps you to identify species you've seen but aren't sure what they are)

* to join in capaigns to potect important habitats and species in your local area and further afield

* to get out there and enjoy nature!

As ever, red text includes hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The bees knees and the pussy willow

Of course bees don't really have knees, but the brightly coloured pollen baskets on their legs are sometimes referred to as knees. I took these photos of a bumble bee on my favourite pussy willow tree in Musselburgh yesterday.

definitely Spring now!

Bees are struggling, due to pesticides and habitat loss. This street art sums up the peril very well. 

As ever, red text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Colinton Dell

 carpeted in wild garlic
 and this celandine adds a touch of colour to the greenery
I took these photos yesterday in Colinton Dell, by the Water of Leith.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Hermitage Golf Course

Hermitage Golf Course is a golf course with a difference. Run by Autism Ventures Scotland (part of Autism Initiatives) it offers training and support to adults with autism, who get involved in horticutural and other activities on the site. The cafe offers a range of delicious cakes and snacks.

Things are going to change however. Autism Ventures Scotland is three years into a forty year lease on the site so they're not going anywhere but they are looking at ways of developing the income generation potential of the site.

I went along to the public consultation of the site redevelopment today. 

One thing that's definitely going to change is the club house. The current building is supposed to be only temporary, is in poor condition and is only still standing pending a new one being built. The plans for the new building are very impressive, it will have a green roof and a south facing aspect and will be built using environmentally friendly materials wherever possible, though there are complicated reasons preventing them from using renewable energy in the building. The only actual problem anyone could see with this building was that if the overall redevelopment plan fails then the new building might act as a precedent for building a lot more new buildings on this site (which was saved from being turned into housing when Autism Ventures Scotland took on the lease).

More controversial is the plan to add a mountain biking track to the site. This would have potential impact on the wildlife of the area and also could cause conflict with other users of the site, walkers and birdwatchers as well as golfers - it seems to me that putting a mountain bike track round the perimeter of a gold course would be bizarre to say the least. People who work with the adults with autism who use the site are concerned that hundreds of mountain bikers dashing round the site would have a detrimental effect on the very people the site is supposed to help. I think the audience were probably mostly prepared to be open minded about the mountain biking until the presenter started talking about 'dead land' (ie open space) and looked totally blank when asked about the environmental impact of building 4km of asphalt track round the site. Also going against the proposal is the fact that people won't pay to use the mountain biking facilty and income generation will all be via the cafe, equipment hire and meeting room hire. (Plus charity fundraising).

Overall, I'm in favour of the site being developed for recreation if that can be done in a way that doesn't negatively impact on the wildlife or the existing amenity value of the area. However I'm not at all convinced that the mountain biking proposal fits the bill.

Read the Friends of Hermitage of Braid and Blackford Hill comments on the plans.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Burdiehouse Burn Valley Park

It was a lovely spring day for a walk in Burdiehouse Burn Valley Park today. We heard the first chiffchaffs of the year, a true sign of spring (Chiffchaffs are migratory, coming over to the UK for the summer from their wintering grounds in Africa.)

repeating its name
in case we'd forgotten it -
first chiffchaff.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Solar eclipse and spring in bloom

This morning I was in Musselburgh to see the solar eclipse. I had read that you can use binoculars to focus the light from the eclipse and project it onto a wall or piece of paper - this trick failed totally, but the more traditional pinhole idea did work. Even if that hadn't worked I was just amazed by the beautifully eerie light quality during the eclipse (though I don't think this photo does any justice at all the true quality of the light)

As soon as it started to get brighter again, a skylark started to sing.


Coltsfoot has been in flower for a couple of weeks now but these are my first photos of the year

I've already shared lots of photos of the male pussy willow catkins as they've been opening over the last few weeks and here are some more

 and not to forget the catkins on the nearby female tree

I watched a pair of long tailed tits carefully collecting 'stuff' from branches and then taking it deep into the bushes. I think it was food for their youngsters, though they may still have been collecting nesting material.

Oh and I saw my first two bees of the year!

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

Dellarobia is a frustrated housewife, living in the Appalachian mountains. One day she is walking through the woods intending to meet up with a lover when she notices a mass of colour and movement in the trees. Without her glasses she can't recognise what she's seeing and interprets it as some kind of divine sign that she should return to her husband and children.

Down in Mexico, the Monarch butterflies have been driven from their traditional over-wintering roosts by climate change and forest destruction and have moved to the Appalachians as an alternative site. These butterflies are what Dellarobia saw in the woods.

Soon tourists and then scientists come to the hills to enjoy and study the insects. Dellarobia becomes involved in the scientific study of the butterflies and gets caught up in the scientists' concerns about whether they can survive an Appalachian winter.

At one point an over earnest climate change campaigner turns up to petition the tourists to reduce their carbon footprint. His conversation with Dellarobia neatly demonstrates how many environmental  activists are out of touch with people who are struggling just to survive and who in that struggle may be being environmentally friendly, not entirely by choice but through lack of money and choices.

This is a moving story about climate change and the effects that it can have on the natural world. Unfortunately I found the story much less compelling when the Monarch's were out of the frame. Many of the scenes, specially the very domestic ones and those set in various shops, felt overlong, notwithstanding the insights they offered into consumerism and dull domesticity.

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver published by Faber

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Monday, 16 March 2015

More Jewellery...

I enjoyed making this bracelet and earrings from beads in my stash. I like the sort of ocean / aqua colour scheme.

They're now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop:

You can find the bracelet in the shop here

and the earrings are here.

I also recently made this bracelet

which you can find in my Etsy ahop here.

Saturday, 14 March 2015


skylark-song -
pussy willow catkins burst 
with yellow anthers

Friday, 13 March 2015

Pussy willows

I love following pussy willows through the early spring - these photos are of my favourite male pussy willow next to the path in the bird reserve at Musselburgh Lagoons.

2 February 2015 - looking quite odd as the buds start to break

6 March - the lovely soft furry stage

13 March (today) - my favourite stage as the stamens and pollen bearing anthers emerge from the furry catkin. I took lots of photos - here are just two of them.

Meanwhile a reed bunting was singing from a nearby bush

Skylarks were singing everywhere too, up in the soft Spring air.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Good Seed Guide

Subtitled All you need to know about growing trees from seeds, this little book from the Tree Council is an invaluable guide.

The first half of the book is a guide to native and other commonly found trees that you may want to plant in the UK. Each tree is described in detail with illustrations of key features such as leaf, seed and silhouette. There is a brief description for each species of how to treat its seeds for best planting results.

The second half of the books looks at specific techniques of seed treatment to ensure germination and good growth.  So anyone wanting to plant trees will find all the help they need here!

The Good Seed Guide published by The Tree Council on paper from the Nordic Environmental Label (but not recycled paper as one might hope).

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Top Green Initiatives 2015

Top 100

I'm delighted to be included in the list of top 20 bloggers in the Greenmatch UK list of Top Green Initiatives.

Green Match is a free online green energy comparison service and part of me can't help feeling that this initiative is a way for them to get more publicity as all of us included in their lists fall over ourselves to show how delighted we are to be included. But that's maybe just the cynic in me and it is good to have a one stop site where you are able to compare the various green energy offers out there.

But any way, I am delighted to be included on this list alongside, on the one hand such household names as Greenpeace and The Ecologist and on the other hand fellow Edinburgh blogger MeEco, YouEco.

Beyond blogs the lists include Education, Green Projects (including the adorably named Dancing Rabbit Eco Village). Community Initiatives and Green Energy. Which all makes up a great directory of interesting and worthwhile green initiatives.

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Very Inspiring Blogger


I was delighted to receive the Very Inspiring Blogger award from sage over at Musings, who is a very inspiring blogger himself. He blogs about many things, but often about his long treks, often by kayak, through the countryside. I like the relaxed pace of his journeys and his very observant take on what he sees around him.

So thanks sage and here are the rules... 

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and link to their blog.  (I've done it)

2. Display the award logo. (it's at the top of this post)

3. Nominate 15 other bloggers (more or less) and provide a link where they may be found. 

4. Go to their blog, leave a comment to let them know they have been nominated. 

5. Mention three things that inspired you the most during the past few weeks. (See below)

As you know, Crafty Green Boyfriend and I recently had a very inspiring trip up to the far north of Scotland, which you can read about in recent blog posts. The scenery up there is stunning, from snow capped mountains, to beautifully coloured moorland and peat bogs, picturesque lochans (little lochs) and stunning coastal cliffs. The wildlife is amazing too and we had a wonderful close encounter with a small herd of red deer.

When I was picking litter along the Gorgie stretch of the Water of Leith recently (this is an extra stretch of the river I'm currently doing to cover for a lack of volunteers) I reached a particularly bad area of litter, which, there was no way, I  could even make a dent on by myself. All of a sudden I noticed a movement in one of the bushes and there was a goldcrest, the UK's smallest bird, hopping from branch to branch right in front of me.

I've found my stash of random beads and broken jewellery very inspiring recently and have been making them into new items - different types of jewellery and other beaded items. Some of which I've already shared on this blog and others to come soon...

And so to the blogs I've chosen:

Caroline at Wild and Wonderful, who blogs about her nature observations, mostly in and around her home in Suffolk, England

Michelle over at Rambling Woods shares nature notes from her garden and campaigns on issues such as saving the Monarch butterfly.

Eileen at Viewing Nature with Eileen also shares nature notes from her garden and round about!

Bob who I recently discovered over at Birds and Nature of the Forest of Dean, who shares amazing nature photos

Charlotte at Cottontails Baby not only has an adorable rabbit Rudolph, but encourages him to join in the wonderful photo shoots and videos she does with soft toys to advertise her shop, also called Cottontails Baby. (Possibly one of the most inspiring shop marketing campaigns anywhere).

More adorable rabbits (Hannah and Harrington) with Michelle at Raspberry Rabbits, who makes wonderful quilts

Debbie at Dosankodebbie's Etaegami Notebook where she shares her always inspiring artwork 

The Optimistic Existentialist who shares consistently thought provoking posts on a range of topics

A Cuban in London who blogs about many things, including food, music and politics

There are many others too, 

Monday, 9 March 2015

Pink and white beaded bracelet

I had fun making this bracelet. I made it from beads from my stash threaded onto elastic and it turned out quite small (6 inches / 15-16 cm) probably because my wrist is quite small!

It's now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, you can see it here.

I'm making quite a lot of jewellery at the moment, most of which is ending up in my Etsy shop!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

In search of great crested grebes

The first birdwatching sight that got me excited about birdwatching was seeing a pair of great crested grebes dancing on a reservoir near where my parents live, when I was about nine.

A few years ago Crafty Green Boyfriend and I visited Linlithgow in early March and were delighted to find about 20 pairs of great crested grebes dancing on Linlithgow Loch. Every year since then we've visted the town in early March in the hope of seeing the grebes dancing.

Today we saw four or five great crested grebes (two of which are in this photo)

and several little grebes

and none of them were dancing. The weather may not have been ideal, I certainly wouldn't want to be dancing on such a windblown and choppy Loch under dull grey skies!

We did see a lot of birds though, many of which were asleep like this pochard

These young mute swans welcomed us to the Loch.

and these coots were showing off their funny feet as they wandered round the grass.

Friday, 6 March 2015

What colour is a tufted duck?

Now clearly the male tufted duck is black and white, or is he?

Look carefully at the photo above and you may notice the hint of green in the feathers on his back and on the very top of his head. So, sometimes the tufted duck is black, white and green. But wait, what's this

The tufted duck above has clearly got a purple cheek!

It all depends on the angle of the light! The tufted duck, like many other birds, has irridescent plumage (you can find out more about this type of colouring by scrolling down in this article).

Thanks to the tufted ducks on Lochend Park for showing their true colours yesterday.


Meanwhile, the pussy willow is now properly out and is beautifully soft and smooth to the touch.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane

In this book Robert MacFarlane takes us on a tour of the British Isles looking for our remaining wild places. He starts by seeking out wildnerness, remote areas of wild weather and (relatively) untouched nature, camping on ice and mountain peaks.

He soon comes to realise though that wild places aren't just wilderness, but those areas where nature reclaims the land from humans:

That margins should be a redoubt of wildness, I knew, was proof of the devastation of the land: the extent to which nature had been squeezed to the territlry's edges, repressed almost to extinction. But it seemed like proof, as well, of the resilience of the wild - of its instinct for resurgence, its irrepressibility. And a recognition that wildness weaved with the human world, rather than existing only in cleaved off areas, in National Parks and on distant peninsulas and peaks.....

This is a book to open readers' eyes to the wildness that is all around as well as an introduction to some of the most remote areas of wilderness left in our islands.

The Wild Places by Robert MacFarlane, published by Granta

The author Robert MacFarlane recently wrote a brilliant article about wilderness and language, which you can read here

It's World Book Day today - a celebration of reading and an opportunity to encourage children and young people to develop a reading habit!

Wednesday, 4 March 2015


It was snowing yesterday and was very cold. Today is warmer but there is still some snow around. Lovely to see wild garlic showing well in Colinton Dell (by the Water of Leith) today, some of it poking through the snow.

Also lovely to see the first celandines of the year, growing in a less snowy part of the Dells

Lots of birds singing too.....

Monday, 2 March 2015

beaded curtain tie-backs

I recemtly made these beaded tie backs with beads from an ugly necklace that needed to be restrung plus a few beads and hoops from my stash.

The're now in the Crafty Green Poet Etsy shop, you can see them here.

You can see the other beaded curtain tie backs I've made here.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

White God - a film review

Teenager Lili is sent to stay with her estranged father, who isn't happy about looking after her or her dog, Hagen. He eventually throws Hagen out into the streets and Lili is unable to find her beloved pet, despite wandering round for ages.

Hagen is having adventures of his own, meeting up with other strays and learning how to find a living from market stalls and refuse piles. Then he is captured and trained as a fighting dog. After he kills another dog in a fight, he escapes and leads a pack of strays and abandoned dogs on a mission to punish the humans who have mistreated them.

This is a gripping and sobering film about human mistreatement of animals. It also acts as a metaphor for human mistreatment of groups of people considered to be undesirable. (I think it has a particular resonance with the political situation in Hungary, the film's country of origin, but I don't know enough about Hungarian social issues to comment specifically on that.)

The funny thing is, anyone watching the dogs (who collectively won the Palm Dog Award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival) chasing round the streets can tell that these aren't dogs on a killing rampage, they're just domestic dogs enjoying a nice run with their friends, look at all those wagging tails! Which makes the viewer happy that no dogs were harmed in this film and doesn't detract from the drama!

White God is showing at Edinburgh's Filmhouse cinema until Thursday 5 March.